The new site was made available with funds obtained from Connect Arkansas, a project of the Arkansas Capital Corporation. The county's website is the first of fifteen sites in the state that received the funding and is the first to be completed.
On March 28, 2007, Governor Beebe signed the Connect Arkansas Act into law to facilitate the creation of a competitive broadband infrastructure to improve personal lives, and the economic prospects of all Arkansans. In economic development, education and healthcare, broadband is seen as a vital community need, according to surveys conducted by Connect Arkansas.
Katie Holder, eCommunities Analyst with Connect Arkansas, presented the web site and explained the importance of having such a site to a host of community leaders in attendance.
The site is an important part of e-Government, by allowing residents to save time and energy paying their taxes, reviewing public records and accessing other services online. The Information Network of Arkansas helped to construct the web site. It assists offices which are low staffed to be more efficient and keep up with the growing demand for online business transactions.
Along with the project comes the need for broadband coverage in the area. As the Highland School District becomes a high tech school in 2012-2013, the need for high speed access becomes even more important. Students are required to have access to an uninterrupted source. While options for high speed access are available in the county, many rural areas are not covered by the service, which is something Connect Arkansas is trying to address.
During the unveiling press conference, Holder explained that, while Connect Arkansas is not in the business of building broadband infrastructure, it does assist with mapping for both state and county wireless, fixed wireless, mobile wireless and satellite technology based on needs surveys that have been completed.
The data received from Sharp County residents allowed Connect Arkansas to develop an assessment of broadband and technology needs designed to increase the use of the Internet and other technologies within Sharp County.
In addition to mapping areas where improved service is needed, Holder discussed a plan of action to implement the system across the county, beginning with engineering assessments, which will provide projected costs. The group also plans to hold other meetings within the county with community leaders and internet service providers.
Connect Arkansas also has plans for public broadband centers within the county. Concerned residents are asked to support the plan by contributing ideas, including locations for the centers and to spread the word about Connect Arkansas' mission.
Ultimately, Connect Arkansas plans to provide reliable high speed internet access to every resident of the county.
By establishing county and city wide policies that promote public and private investment in the technology, the community will also benefit from Connect Arkansas and high speed access.
Creating more visibility of products and services usage will increase within the county, enhancing revenues for the county.
Through high speed access, clubs and civic organizations can also benefit, by allowing those outside the county to more easily locate information about the county.
"We are excited about Sharp County's new website and thankful for the funding and technical assistance provided by Connect Arkansas. We hope to develop this site into a very useful tool for keeping our citizens informed about their county government," said Judge Larry Brown.
Sharp County Tax assessor Kathy Nix plans a demonstration at the March 12 Quorum Court meeting to show how her office can assist people by performing online assessments.
The county's web site address is: http://county.arkansas.gov/sharp.
Holder encourages Sharp County residents to become familiar with the site and the many options it will offer them.